By Kim Robson:
We love to discuss self-sustainability here at Green-Mom. Interest in raising backyard chickens and beekeeping has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Some folks are upscaling to fully self-contained, closed-loop backyard ecosystems.
Fresh eggs and honey are wonderful, but how about goat milk and cheese? With the emergence of adorably tiny, small-dog-sized dwarf pygmy goats, many people are investigating the benefits of raising backyard goats. Luckily, with just a few provisions, goats are very easy to care for. Naomi Montacre of Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply has made this helpful video with detailed tips and expert advice for raising backyard goats:
First, you’ll want to honestly ask yourself Why do I want to raise goats? Some people simply want a few adorable pets. Others may want to milk them for fresh goat milk and goat cheese, which require a different diet for the female milk goats, plus an additional time commitment.
Before going any further, find out if your local municipality allows zoning for backyard goats in your neighborhood. You may be limited to a certain number of animals, and it’s also possible your homeowner’s association forbids goats and other livestock. Don’t invest time and money without doing your due diligence. If zoning laws don’t allow goats (or bees or chickens, for that matter), you might start a local grassroots movement to change the zoning to allow them. Vocal public demand can have a dramatic effect on city and county councils’ mindsets.
Next, you’ll need to devote a certain amount of space for your goats. Depending on their size, goats need between 10 to 50 square feet of space per animal to move around. They also need to have a dry area outside where they can lie down and rest. For shelter at night, your goats will need at least a 4- by 5-foot shed or small barn. Finally, to keep them from wandering off, and to protect them from predators, your goats will need some light fencing around their enclosure.
Feeding goats is quite simple: you can leave out dry hay for them to graze on. And it keeps forever, so you can stock up over winter. They also like green leafy cut branches and alfalfa pellets, which are great to put in your pockets for walks. They also love vegetable scraps like leafy greens, as well as garlic, and banana and orange peels. They’ll need a water source, and minerals from a salt lick. Only the female milkers (never males) should be fed grain.
All animals, whether pets or livestock, require time and attention, and goats are no different. If you’re milking your goats, they’ll need to be milked one to two times a day. You’ll need to clean their sleeping and outdoor areas, and lay fresh hay. They love to run and climb and jump around outside on play structures, chase their peeps around, get petted and hugged; and they love to take long walks.
Your goats will need basic veterinary care, general home care, and plenty of exercise. Find out if your veterinarian can handle goats, and ask for a recommendation if he or she doesn’t. Their hooves require regular trimming, and their coats can be managed quite well with a horse curry comb and a dog Furminator. Most goats need deworming treatments. Some people use chemical treatments from the vet, while others prefer to go the herbal route with garlic.